Personal freedom is, in most senses, an illusion

“As with astronomy the difficulty of recognizing the motion of the earth lay in abandoning the immediate sensation of the earth’s fixity and of the motion of the planets, so in history the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of personality to the laws of space, time, and cause lies in renouncing the direct feeling of the independence of one’s own personality. But as in astronomy the new view said: It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws, so also in history the new view says: It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our free will we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.”

In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Churches are failing Millennials, but not for reasons they will admit

I’ve seen this article talking about how churches need to adapt to Millennial needs floating around my feed and I think it’s worth addressing.

A point the author entirely misses is that many people simply don’t buy the worldview that church is selling. To many, it stretches credibility at best or is wholly absurd at worst. A majority of Millennials polled believe in God, but are unwilling to tie themselves to a particular theological label. Of course, maybe I’m wrong, too, since UU and Quakers are seeing similar membership declines.

I wonder if the primary factors influencing church membership are economics and time. More young people are working longer hours, have multiple jobs to make ends meet, and feel tied down to a tighter daily schedule. TV church, live streams, and podcasts are available on our own schedule, not needing to block off half of a day religiously.

A lot of the comments I see on this are from Baby Boomer parents probably frustrated by their own adult children’s lack of attendance. I see lines like “just show up and WORSHIP” which might as well just be saying “STOP WHINING.” But that misses the point. If you feel alienated from your social surroundings, where the institution itself seems hostile to your values and way of being, it’s hard to focus on being self-reflective. And why support something that doesn’t share your values? Blind tradition?

…Or maybe this is all the death throes of an ultimately self-destructive ideology. Or just more cataclysmic prophecy from a group who like to make cataclysmic prophecies; that definitely seems to be part of the M.O.

Process and Reality

Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity. Each actual occasion contributes to the circumstances of its origin additional formative elements deepening its own peculiar individuality. Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality from which it originates and which it embodies. An actual individual, of such higher grade, has truck with the totality of things by reason of its sheer actuality; but it has attained its individual depth of being by a selective emphasis limited to its own purposes. The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection.

– Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, Pt. I, Ch. 1, sec. 6.

Why Ayn Rand shouldn’t be taken seriously

“[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using…. What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.”

– Ayn Rand, Libertarian ubermadchen


And fans ask why Ayn Rand isn’t taken seriously in academic circles.


Look, Job Creators!

Žižek plagiarism scandal

Žižek’s plagiarism of a book review in a white nationalist magazine . There have been many important intellectuals who have had similar dust-ups with minor incidents of plagiarism. Heidegger and Kierkegaard, for example, and people still read them. Everyone reads other works and borrows ideas from them without necessarily citing every single idea – we legitimately don’t remember the original source.

To put a different angle on it, who would actually want to read a book with white nationalist ties? Who would want to cite a white nationalist magazine? There were times when intellectuals were hesitant to cite anything with Buddhist origin, out of fear of looking flakey. In literature, nobody in academia would admit to reading or directly talk about fantasy and science fiction, but their pretentious counterparts, “magical realism” and “speculative fiction,” are universally acclaimed.

On the other side, though, the rules of the academy are that credit must be given to non-original ideas – always. If you or I did this on a dissertation, our academic careers would be over. Heck, people left and right are disavowing any former support for the ideas of Colin McGinn after his sex scandal, and his mistake was outside of the scope of his intellectual thought.

I want to see how the dust settles on this. I don’t feel like this should be a career-ending black mark, but it does reflect Žižek’s sloppy approach to intellectual thought and scholarship.

Network Neutrality simplified

I wrote a letter to my local paper giving a simplified explanation of the network neutrality issue, for the low-tech crowd. You can read it below:

The FCC is considering a proposal to allow Internet service companies to give higher and lower priority status to websites who pay special fees, and to restrict consumer access to websites who don’t pay for this special status. Consumers pay for access to the Internet, which means all of the websites on it; websites pay their own Internet service costs. This proposal is akin to companies setting up an extra tollway on a road you already paid to use.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is a former lobbyist for these Internet service providers. The fox is in the henhouse and the FCC is now being abused to give special kickbacks to Internet service companies, and in doing so risks the free flow of ideas in America. Your favorite websites will soon be slower or go completely dark, unless they pay the special fees. If your local Internet service company doesn’t like a website because it doesn’t agree with their politics, they can block it altogether.
The only viable solution is to reclassify Internet service as a common carrier. This would make it like phone service. Your phone company can’t decide who you can and cannot call, and Internet companies shouldn’t be able to control which Websites work and which Websites don’t.

Open Letter to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz

An Open Letter to Senators Cornyn and Cruz:

On May 15, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who comes from the telecom industry and who will presumably return there once his term as a regulator for the telecommunications industry ends, will reveal his proposal that is expected to represent a turning point in the history of the Internet. There are indications that he will be moving us away from net neutrality. the concept that ISPs can’t prioritize or de-prioritize certain internet traffic and towards a “commercially reasonable” litmus test. In other words, ISPs will likely be allowed to treat online traffic however they please as long as people like Tom Wheeler deem what they decide to do “commercially reasonable.”
Wheeler has been an executive at two lobbying groups: he was the President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). I have to infer, based on that history and the news that he plans institute the “commercially reasonable” standard, that these new rules are designed to benefit the major telecom and ISP companies rather than the public at large.

This is a prime example of regulatory capture: the current chairman of the FCC was an executive at lobbying firms for the industry he’s now regulating. The fox is in the henhouse, and the FCC can’t be trusted to do the right thing when they’re controlled opposition for the companies they’re supposed to be keeping in check.

As such, I am asking you to introduce a simple bill that would re-classify ISPs as Title II common carriers and which would briefly clarify that ISPs may neither prioritize nor de-prioritize any information flowing through their networks.

Failing to prevent the decay of net neutrality would have widespread consequences. If the FCC is allowed to apply a “commercially reasonable” standard at Tom Wheeler’s discretion, we will see the stifling of both online activism and the free association of like-minded individuals online and, almost inevitably, an assault on the freedom of the press (Did a muckraking journalist just publish a groundbreaking investigation of the ISP industry? Guess what webpage isn’t going to be loading anytime soon.).
Please do not allow ISPs to dictate the future of the First Amendment.
Do the right thing and re-classify ISPs as common carriers.

More information can be found at

The fluidity of truth

In times past, humanity did not have clear notions of truth. The concept of fact was relatively vague and allowed for variety. A person could accept something, let’s say a history for their specific region, while also accepting an accompanying history from others that may have contradictions; those contradictions would not be a problem. An individual could believe in something as truthful while also believing in something else that might constitute a contradiction. A Catholic could accept the story at the beginning of Genesis while also accepting an otherwise apocryphal story like that of Lilith.

Truth had variability and context. The advent of social order, and then intellectual thought, reasoning, and science with its clear and rigorously tested concrete facts has helped humanity reach a distinct level of clarity in its thoughts about the world and existence.

However, this development has displaced the traditional source of knowledge: religion. Religion appeals to those less conscious and forefront parts of the human experience, our subjective feelings of personal truth.

Now, the “culture war” clashes of our contemporary society have come from those religious forces trying to reformulate their beliefs in the form of reason-based knowledge and scientific facts; they aim to create an authority like reason-based truth without its key component: critical thinking.

This can be seen in any ideologically-geared counter-factual education, particularly like those being put forward in the state of Texas. Depicting evolution as “controversial” where no actual controversy exists in the scientific community, for example. The next step after presenting it as a “controversy” is to then depict it as more and more suspect until the common authoritative perspective concludes in its falsity, not out of reason but rather out of engrained half-truths; the tone and authority of science without any true intellectual rigor or evidence.

The country is governed…

“The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.” -Helen Keller, 1911